The latest committee of inquiry on the teaching profession is, as the Education Minister's leaked memo to his Cabinet colleagues made clear, partially presentational. It is also probably the only route out of the present impasse - but not the present discontents.
Previous committees of inquiry into the teaching profession have ushered in major gains for teachers. The 1986 inquiry under Sir Peter Main, while by no means free of controversy, did lead to a 16.4 per cent pay rise.
Like Main, Sam Galbraith's inquiry will have to do some deft footwork to establish credibility with teachers. The most cursory glance at its remit (page three) reveals it is strongly influenced by the "affordability" criteria set for the teachers' pay review body south of the border and shackled by the assumptions which lie behind the management's rejected offer. Indeed, the remit set for the committee looks suspiciously designed to produce that very offer again.
Perhaps the Scottish Executive, instead of foaming at the mouth over the failure of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee to agree twice this decade, should ask why the unions turned down 18.1 and 14.7 per cent in 1992 and 1999. It takes two sides to cock up as well as agree.
But the real question is what happens after the inquiry. The Main proposals had to be finessed by intensive SJNC bargaining, an escape route which will not be available if Mr Galbraith has his way. It would be extreme folly to try imposition. Apart from anything else, could the Liberal Democrats in the government coalition stand the fall-out?
The runes suggest ministers want to see national bargaining continue, albeit stripped of its legally binding status. The Educational Institute of Scotland, desperate to remain the dominant force in the negotiations, wants the same thing. Despite talk of war, both sides still need each other.
18H Scotland Opinion TESJseptember 24J 1999 THE TIMES EDUCATIONAL SUPPLEMENT Scott House, 10 South St Andrew Street,JEdinburgh EH2 2AZ Telephone Editorial 0131-557 1133;JAdvertising 0131-557 1144; Fax 0131-558 1155 E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org muriel macleod Is training joy or punishment?